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The Communicators

Andrew Blum News/Business. (2012) The author speaks about the physical infrastructure of the Internet. New.

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Los Angeles 6, Washington 5, London 4, Virginia 4, Goldman Sachs 3, Kenya 3, Ashford 3, Sandy 2, Atlantic 2, Manhattan 2, William Henry Stewart 1, Drehle 1, Napoleon 1, Morse 1, Hford 1, Verizon 1, C-span 1, Deutsche Telekom 1, Andrew Blum 1, Pacific 1,
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  CSPAN    The Communicators    Andrew Blum  News/Business.  (2012) The author speaks  
   about the physical infrastructure of the Internet. New.  

    December 22, 2012
    6:30 - 7:00pm EST  

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the inexperienced officers thrust into command of these wroraw volunteers were stated by the sheer size of the confederate states of america. it covered a space larger than than the tire -- entire european territory conquered by napoleon. william henry stewart said that even smart people failed to see the difficulties of the union's task. the knot apprehend the vast extent of the rebellion -- they did not apprehend the vast extent of the rebellion, as he put it. >> the second year of the civil war and a strained federal government and weak union forces. coln's "n drehle on linkedin
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rise to greatness." this weekend on c-span 2. >> "tubes" author andrew blum joined just on "the communicators." >> i tried to make our virtual world as tangible as possible. i found out one of the major maps of the internet i was looking at, it was called tele geography. it was made in milwaukee. they watch this thing come off a giant schoolbus machine. it seem like a great way into the store of figuring out not only were the internet is, but also trying to come to terms with what is still physical about our virtual world.
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it turned out that one thing that is physical are the very large printing presses and large printing presses that rent ma pt maps of the internet. i followed a mapmaker there to see this map of the internet come off of the press. >> is there a center of the universe when it comes to the internet? >> there is. there is not just one center, but a dozen buildings around the world that are by far -- they are the places where nmore the works of the internet and it more than anywhere else. new york, london, tokyo. there are interesting outliers. places like ashford, virginia and another not far from dulles airport. you asked the engineers where
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the v that is, they would take new york, los angeles, and ashford. theyere the cetnernter is, would say new york, los angeles, hford.wn for -- asked for i you might say the loading dock of a shopping mall are very generic. deliberately so. they try to hide inside when you tried id.. a try to hide them in plain sight. others have operators -- what operators like to call a science fiction movie. that is deliberate. it are modeled after science
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fiction in order to appeal to the network engineers that are deciding where to put their network connections and where to connect to other networks. when you walk in, it is a bit like walking into a machine. the buildings are incredibly loud and cold from the air- conditioners that keep the machines cool. you cannot see the ceiling. there are usually cages around. big steel cages about half the size of a hotel room. each belongs to a network. that is where they keep the equipment securely. they interconnect aims that way. that is the physical connection. >> when you look at the infrastructure of the wires of the internet, what are those wires made of? >> the predominately centers of the internet, the most important
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places are fiber-optic cables. there often yellow jumper cables. inside of them are strands of glass. inside of that glass our pulses of light. nano second morse code that can carry a baseline of about 10 gigabits or second of data. maybe 10,000 times in your home connection. everywhere you go, you see the yellow jumper cable. that is the internet. that is the connection between that networks. >> the fiber wire cables, is that state of the art? >> they are. the cable itself is a class two. the flickering flashlight on one , where the magic happens. every few years, those signals
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are transmitting faster. it's about the size of a wrigley's gum and about the size of a laptop. next year it might be 40 or 100 gigabits per second. the state-of-the-art of the fiber itself is not changing. it is a piece of the hardware around it. >> is defined what a network is an describe it to us. >> sure. that is the holy grail of understanding what the internet is in physical terms. i network on the internet is known as an autonomous system. it operates autonomously. it might be of any scale. it could be a huge network like verizon or telecom. it might be the network of a long-term that spans from new york to los angeles.
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but is striking and what is necessary to understand is the way it manifests itself physically that networks carried networks. you might have a level 3 that owns the strands of glass and on the conduits that perhaps spread like railroad tracks across the country. there are midsize network companies that might shall illuminate those glass. they might own the light. there is another company, maybe a goldman sachs or a large law firm, that advises on that glass. ee often talk about the interi information superhighway. i like to think of it more that a network is a car that is tugging along the highway side- by-side with other networks. there is definitely a layering going on.
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that is crucial to understanding the way that the networks and internet operate individually and on a global basis and interconnect and very specifically. >> is there any fear that messages or whatever is being carrying on those networks could get lost? such as you took the wrong offramp on highway question mar. >> certainly. and are encoded with an address. sometimes those end up in the wrong place. it is based on trust. the routing system is based on trust and the network saying, i am over here. here are the networks behind me that you can reach through me. that announcement is not prescribed and is not really regulated based on the competence and trust of a given network engineer.
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occasionally and this happened last week, a network all say, actually these networks that were behind me are in fact are not. telecom said, hey, i'm not youtube. i entered the address wrong and now the entire road is beating down my door and youtube was not there. that is what amazed me again and again without personal these versatile interconnections were. they depended on one network engineer trusting another testing engineer to figure out the route. >> we are talking with andrew "tubes."hor oum, author of you described level 3 as the backbone of a company. >> they operate a global network.
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meaning they have rights or owned rights of strands of glass. more importantly, they own the optical equipment that illuminates the fibers and the data. they sell that to anyone who is interested. it could be another network. it could be a large government organization. the government is one of the level 3 customers. they are the ones who allow the internet to be mobile. they make the long -- to be global. they make the long-distance connection. the facebook's and the googles to ride on top of that. >> if somebody here in washington sent an e-mail to somebody in kenya, how does that track? >> that is interesting.
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if you asked that question two years ago, the answer would be different. only recently now that kenya has good connection to the internet rather than rely on satellite intermission. from washington to kenya, it would go through a building in ashford, virginia. 80% sure it would go through lower manhattan. dest is one of the major note for the transatlantic cable. the undersea cables that cross the atlantic and transport this communication. it would go through a single building in london. it is the uk equivalent of ashford in the u.s. i know that because the two cables down the east coast of
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africa both have their major london.n from there it is a straight shot. it is a fascinating place. it is in the same spot as the ancient report. -- port. this is the place where the international -- >> where are these undersea cables that you referred to earlier? and by whom? >> there have an telegraph cables across the atlantic for 150 years now. depending on how you count, individual strands or cable systems, there are about eight or 10 or 12 across the atlantic. the current generation was laid in the mid-90s.
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up until about 2002. they are owned by a few companies. very large backbone companies. they are owned by telecom, verizon, british telecom joining with deutsche telekom. or a couple are owned by companies that only own cables across the atlantic. they bought their people out of bankruptcy out of a larger telecom. -we specialize in new york or london. we will sell you services to another telecom or anyone who meets high-capacity bandwidth. >> what about this pacific?
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>> the pacific is -- i get a similar combination of players -- again, a similar combination of players. google funds a vast global network. they operate almost like a telecom of their own. they put out the effort and the money into building a new cable about three years ago now. it speaks of the importance of infrastructure and the need for art internet companies to have as much control as possible with their links. that ends up with interesting consequences for the way the network operators talk about geography. another important cable across the pacific is owned by tata.
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what i like about them is that they are very big on marketing around the world. they say we have a belt around the world. if something happened to our cable in the this is fake, -- in the pacific, we could send things to the east rather than the west. that imagination was something that fascinated me about the people who run these global networks and to build and imagines what they should be. >> a lot of redundancy in network communications and connections around the world? >> indeed. i spent a lot of time with network engineers. they are a very cautious and extremely competent group. they are able to do the most with the least, but there is a very strong telecom tradition
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and robust networks. of course, there are those companies that are picking and choosing from other people's globalks and assembling nobl networks of their own. my favorite example -- if the internet ever went down, the last network standing would be goldman sachs network. i can vividly true in a slightly efrin realm with hurricane sandy in new york -- in a slightly different round with hurricane sandy in new york. their efforts to make sure that their infrastructure was as robust as possible. >> why is it that goldman sachs has the electricity and power going on when the rest of manhattan and hudson street was dark? did 60 hudson go down as well?
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we even had problems getting e- mails sent from washington to new york connected. >> like every major internet building in new york, we switched over successfully to diesel power. the week before last, the internet in new york ran on diesel. it was as simple as that. they have backup generators. when you visit, there is always a point on the tour where there is a room filled with four megawatt diesel generators. and that case of another important hub, a building owned entirely by google, in both spaces, both generator switched over. internet was running on diesel.
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there is one that was not successfully switched over. another common example -- the fuel pump was in the basement. the basement is flooded. you could attempt as they did to have a bucket brigade of diesel fuel up the stairs, but that is a tough and to do. -- thing to do. >> how reliable is the internet on satellite these days? >> minimally. it is a technology that is the last resort for the internet. if there is no possibility of a physical connection -- there are fewer places in the world who do not have redundant physical connections. most remarkably, that is africa. they have seen six new cables down the coast where previously
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there was only one cable down the west coast. as much as possible, people are fromer to move away satellite because of the high costs and because what is known as latency, the time delay in making that trip. >> these centers in hudson, l ondon, ashford, when it comes to cybersecurity, would these be prime targets? >> no, i do not think they would be. i take cybersecurity very seriously, but i think the far greater concern is a threat through the network and not the physical threat of infrastructure itself. these buildings are well secured. these buildings operate redundantly with each other.
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say google and comcast having interconnecting networks. unit set up in los angeles and los angeles -- you would set up in los angeles and san francisco .- bir there might be a storm. there might be some malicious attack. that does not something i sense that engineers losing a lot of sleep over. there are not very good targets from a cybersecurity standpoint. they are highly secure. the equipment is very expensive. i talked to people and visited these places and saw the higher up the food chain i got, the less concerned they were about talking about them. the less concerned they were
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about the physical security. the greater concern was ignorance. if we do not know about these buildings and what goes on inside of them what the issues are facing those operators, the greater the threat is. the internet would be legislated in a way that is not the best thing for the healthy functioning of the network to be protected. >> you named your book "tubes." where does that name come from? >> the famous, and 2006 -- quote unstrung 2006. -- comes from 2006. this was the height of ignorance on washington's part. this is an example of the senate had responsible for
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legislating the internet had no idea what it was. it struck me as describing the physical infrastructure and when it is. -- what it is. everywhere there are these metal conduits. and produc>> is there someplacet anyone can access a map of the internet? >> sure. quit quite a few. the paper map of the undersea cables, they have done a great online version of that map. the internet is not hidden. these major nodes are public in an odd way. the companies that own and operate them are eager for
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others to know who is there and how important they are. it is not as if this is something that everything is hush-hush about. quite the opposite. these are places where the networks are operating and one other networks to know. >> you mentioned washington as somebody who follows technology. what is your impression of washington when it comes to policies, tech policies? >> it is not something i have covered very closely at all. my interest runs more to with the way the internet smells and the history of it rather than one place or another. it is not a book about energy -- technology.
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-- policy. there was a moment with the sopa debate where i was confused about while -- why they were not up in arms about it. it is so crazy we could not do it. if it would happen, we could not execute it. it seems to me that airline pilots are suddenly asked why the plane is upside down. i do have a bit of stockholm syndrome with the captors. i see the internet through their eyes. i have not yet emerged myself in the opposite view in the policy discussion. >> in the construct of the internet, we are hearing a lot
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about the cloud. how does that fit in? >> the cloud is all of it. the cloud is a marketing term for the way in which the internet as a whole can offer business services. with that means more specifically perhaps is a large datacenter and data warehouse. perhaps not in ashford, virginia, but the next town over. they have to tether in and connect directly as possible to the distribution depot, you might say, of ashford, virginia . ashford is the place where bandwidth is the most abundant and cheapest. when you are dealing with the cloud -- your e-mail, backup, or some program you use -- you want it to operate as smoothly as
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possible. as much as it is sitting on your own computer. that means being closely tied to the major network hubs as possible. >> in our discussion this past have our, we have talked about generators and rooms with air conditioning. how green is the internet? >> the internet is surprisingly green. bub awas a bit of a havub couple of months ago. there was a new york times series on the cloud and the enormous energy consumed by the data centers. what impressed me was the efforts toward efficiency, particularly at the top of the business. the googles and the facebook's and the yahoos all striving to make the data centers as
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efficient as possible and recognizing that it is often more efficient to keep your stuff in this massive machine than it is to have it on a machine humming on your desk. there is a professor at stanford whose name escapes me, but he pointed out that technology only uses about 2% of energy. when you tell people how much energy they think it uses, they will not believe it. our lives are so intertwined with these machines. it is action quite an efficient way. >> if you could or if you have aggregated the amount of investment put in the internet infrastructure, what would it be? >> it is not a number. -- i can sayhat
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that internet is robust because the enormous amount amount of money we are putting into it and during the broadband boom, it was lost to shareholders, but we are better off with that initial overbuilding. >> had you satisfied or turnoff city about the internet? -- have you satisfied your curiosity about the internet? >> these weeks have reminded me of how important and how intertwined and how fascinating the way in which the infrastructure we have created has built itself up in cities and on the coasts. it brought me back to square one and keeping my curiosity on the systems and not just the internet, but power and aviation and the large
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complicated things that we depend on so much. >> "tubes" is the name of the book. andrew blum is the author. this is "communicators" on c- span. >> sometimes he was a cruel boss. he did not know how to apologize. many of his age and class, they're not going to apologize to a young and private secretary. he had a way of turning the tables. his version of an apology would be to say, well, i am a kind man and you are doing a good job today. but the issue was never settled. he always had to get the

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